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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Artist’s expression given free rein

Small Artworks show opens tonight in CdA

Tyree Kearns, 26, works on a metal sculpture Thursday. (Kathy Plonka)

The horses Tyree Kearns welds out of copper and steel would never wear ribbons in their manes.

They are drawn from the war horses of ancient Rome or from Greek mythology. Look closely, and you’ll see their rippling muscles, flared nostrils and the fire in their eyes.

“I like bringing out the spirit of animals,” the 26-year-old Rathdrum metal sculptor said. “Anybody can draw an animal. But you don’t always get that spark. That’s the single biggest thing I like to put in my pieces. I want it to look alive.”

Tonight, Kearns’ metal sculptures will be among 300 pieces by 33 mostly regional artists in the opening of Art Spirit Gallery’s 13th annual Small Artworks Invitational show in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Most of the artists are from Spokane or Coeur d’Alene, but others come from Pasco, Boise, Olympia and Oregon.

The artists range from the internationally known, like sculptor George Carlson, to up-and-coming talents like Kearns, painter Kyle Paliotto and clay sculptor Cary Weigand, said gallery owner Steve Gibbs. Beloved and prolific local artists like Harold Balazs and Mel McCuddin will be represented, and many of the artists will attend, giving the public a chance to connect the work with the people.

The show, said Gibbs, “gives me that opportunity to bring in new artists that I don’t necessarily show on a continuing basis. It’s sort of experimental ground.” The newer artists frequently evolve into having their own shows, he said.

The artwork includes classic oil paintings, clay figures, enamel art from five different artists, pottery, wood sculptures and photography. Because many of the pieces are smaller, they are more affordable to a public seeking holiday gifts, Gibbs said.

The gallery’s focus always has been supporting local artists; Gibbs said 85 percent of the artists represented by his gallery live within 50 miles of it.

As for Kearns, Gibbs said he remembers – not that long ago – when she was a teenager rollerblading down Sherman Avenue.

“She’d poke her head in here and say, ‘I like art,’ ” said Gibbs, chuckling. A few years later, he realized her potential when, at age 21, two of her metal fountains were accepted into the city’s community art project.

Kearns began welding at 16 when a family friend who owned a welding shop put her to work. A couple of years later, she began using her metal skills to create art. At the same time, she was in love with horses, taking riding lessons and competing since she was a child.

Though she’s always drawn and painted, and has dabbled with other types of art, Kearns said she sees horses as a “prevalent” theme for her artwork for the foreseeable future. She said she’d like to break into the art scene in Kentucky, because it’s so horse-focused.

“Having horses and being able to make art – those are my loves,” she said. “Hopefully, it’ll pay off someday.”